Mix Regional News: Chicago



Producer/engineer Brian Deck (Modest Mouse, Iron and Wine, Counting Crows, Gomez) is now working out of IV Lab and is currently in the midst of his first project there—a full-length album with the band Daniel and the Lion. The band was working in Studio A on the forthcoming record for a few weeks in May, with Deck and the studio’s staff engineers, including Shane Hendrickson.

IV Lab is also expanding its business, offering music-licensing opportunities. Merging with IV Lab’s sister company Various Things Live, the studio has produced, engineered, performed and written for a long list of influential projects over the past decade, including those from Manny Sanchez, Shane Hendrickson, Chris Harden, Rollin Weary, Jay Marino, Mike Sportiello, Paul Aluculesei, Darren Garvey, and now the studio’s most recent addition, Brian Deck. Led by IV Lab’s Music Director Darren Garvey and Deck and Sanchez, the studio is working with the artists who record there and beyond to build a catalog available for licensing.

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The studio also recently started a YouTube series called Live From The Vault, which showcases artists who are involved with IV Lab playing stripped-down, live versions of their songs.

The following projects have also taken place at the studio: David Hayes worked with engineers Harden and Weary on Epics; AM Taxi worked with producer Marino and engineers Hendrickson, Weary, Sanchez, and Sportiello on Bastard of the Deep Blue Sea; Honey and the 45s worked with engineer Hendrickson on MAD; District 97 worked with engineer Harden on In Vaults; Graham Czach worked with engineer Sanchez on Star By Star; and Fort Frances worked with engineer Harden on No One Needs to Know Our Name.

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Bricktop Recording is currently in the midst of building a second studio—based on a John L. Sayers design—for mixing and overdubs. The new studio is slated to open in July 2015. “Like our current studio, Pro Tools HD2 will be at its core with racked Neve and Neotek input channels, Hairball Audio 1176 Rev Ds and Distressors, as well as a Black Lion Audio modded Focusrite ISA410—first mod ever on this model—to act as our A/D into our Avid Omni interface,” says Pete Grossmann, engineer/studio owner.

The new studio is in the same warehouse, and is about 500 square feet with 15-foot ceilings. The iso room will be just large enough to fit a small drum kit, but will have plenty of space for vocalists and guitar amps. Grossmann says drums and live sessions will still be primarily done in the existing studio.

Bricktop Recording has also recently added an amp repair shop, which is run by friend of the studio Dean Costello. The studio is building out a dedicated space for the shop as well, right next to Bricktop’s current control room, across the hall from the new studio.

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In other Bricktop Recording news, the following projects have taken place at the studio: Hardcore metal band Harm’s Way worked with engineer/producer Andy Nelson on Rust (with Kurt Ballou mixing); black death metal band Immortal Bird worked with engineer Grossmann (who also co-produced) on Empress/Abscess (with Colin Marston mixing and mastering); Cokegoat worked on new material with Nelson engineering, co-producing and mixing; Trials worked on This Ruined World with Grossmann engineering, playing guitar and bass, and reamping; SOVLS worked on Thick Skin with Nelson engineering, co-producing, and mixing; and Mexican Werewolf worked on Luck with Grossmann engineering, mixing and mastering.

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Suono Recording Studio recently made an addition to its facility: a custom-designed, live end dead end, 300-square-foot mix room.

Completed in January, the new mix room features an SSL 4048E/G console with an Atomic power supply. According to studio producer/engineer Patrick Pulver, the Atomic power supply “adds a bit of clarity and a rounder low end to the console.” The new mix room also features a ton of vintage outboard gear, including Pultec and API EQs; LA-2A, 1176, Distressors, CBS Labs Audimax, API, and dbx compressors; Neve, API, Avalon, Burl and Warm Audio mic pre’s; and Lexicon 224, 480, 300, PCM91, PCM41, PCM 42, and Eventide H3000SE effects units.

In other studio news, Grammy Award-winning producer Michael Freeman has been recently working on a number of projects.

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Former major label artist and producer/engineer/studio owner Matt Mercado is embarking on the studio’s premier mixtape, Sonic Six Vol. I. Produced and engineered by Mercado, the compilations include up-and-coming Chicago rappers Sapa Inca, Smokeadon, Byrd Davis and Mano. The release date is June 29.

In other Sonic Palace news, the studio reports the following projects have taken place: Chicago alt-rockers Black Actress just finished recording a new single for a vinyl release—“Walk of Shame,” recorded with Mercado—from Pistola Entertainment and is scheduled for a July 3 release; rap artists Calvin White and engineer Kyle Reese recently finished recording, mixing and mastering White’s new mixtape, which is scheduled for a July release; Mercado produced and engineered AIM’s vocal tracks for “On the Low,” a new single featuring Chicago rapper King Louie; and indie-pop-rockers Discoveries of the American Scientific will start tracking their new EP, with Mercado producing and engineering. Additionally, Sonic Palace is now a touchscreen-based recording facility having recently reconfigured the studio around Devil Technologies’ DTouch controller for Pro Tools.

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After a year of work at JoyRide Studios, Muddy 100, the tribute album to Muddy Waters’ 100th anniversary, is set to be released in June 2015 on Raisin Music. Since last reported in Mix’s Chicago 2014 regional update, the project has grown to include an impressive roster of guest artists, including Derek Trucks, Gary Clark Jr., Keb’ Mo’, James Cotton, Bob Margolin, Shemekia Copeland, and the late, great Johnny Winter. 

“Johnny visited the studio to lay guitar tracks while in town to play the Chicago Blues Fest,” says JoyRide Studio owner Blaise Barton. “After dialing in his Fender amp tone and miking it up with a Royer 122 ribbon mic and a Shure 57, we piped the band tracks over the studio monitors for Johnny to OD his guitar, preferring to work without headphones. Engineer Brian Leach hit Record and from the very first note, that unmistakable Johnny Winter tone and style blew everyone away in the control room. We were all in blues heaven.” Unfortunately, Winter passed away on July 16, 2014, just four weeks later. Of the experience with Winter, Barton says, “It was one of the greatest honors of my career.”

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Legendary guitarist/songwriter Bobby Balderrama was in Studio A mixing his next single, “JazDude” from his smooth jazz group, Robert Lee Revue, with Joseph Connors (chief engineer, Paragon Studios) mixing, Elizabeth Lauer producing and mixing, William Kelly Milionis producing and mixing, and Ned Engelhart (Paragon Studio owner) mixing. “JazDude” is scheduled for a summer 2015 release. Balderrama is a founding member of Question Mark & the Mysterians, whose song “96 Tears” topped the Billboard Hot 100 Chart for week in 1966, and continues to be a classic rock hit.

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The studio also recently finished reconditioning its Trident TSM #9 console. Chief Engineer Connors and in-house tech Darrel Yount of Music Dealer Services/Mods by Darrel oversaw the reconditioning project. “The process has been lengthy, arduous, painstakingly tedious, and time-consuming, with many prolonged delays spent finding the correct replacement parts,” Connors says. “But we are excited to have our legendary Trident TSM #9 fully reconditioned and ready to go!”

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Producer Dan Monahan recently wrapped up work in March on the latest Plain White T’s album, American Nights.

Red Jacket—a production collective that includes Monahan—engineered and produced seven of the new songs on American Nights. “The process was fun, with late nights turning into endless mornings,” Monahan says. “I believe we got one song a day recorded and tracked. We had a very good system going, where I would engineer and track the band, and then pass it off to my other Red Jacket teammate, Sean Small, for mixing.” Monahan says he used Pro Tools 11, and Small used Cubase on the project.

“We really tried to use organic sounds as much as we could,” Monahan says. “Any chance we had to use real horns and real handclaps, we would for sure. There’s something about making sound for real that captures the moment and sets the vibe for the song.”